IT speaks volumes about Westminster’s febrile free-for-all that a reality check is required. David Cameron has resigned as Prime Minister – and the country urgently needs a new leader to rebuild the Government and begin Brexit negotiations with the European Union following last Thursday’s historic, and game-changing, referendum.
This was borne out by Mr Cameron’s sobering statement to Parliament, his first since he announced his intention to resign and coming just hours after the Tory party set out the rules of engagement for their upcoming leadership contest in order to have a new PM in place by no later than September 2.
He was totally right to condemn the reported increase in racism following the referendum. At a time when political emotions are running so high, it is crucial that communities remain calm in order to fulfil the outgoing PM’s stated desire for Britain to be respected abroad and tolerant of all at home.
However Mr Cameron, at times demob happy, cannot escape the fact that the value of sterling has reached a 30-year low; no one in the Government predicted the economic repercussions of a Leave vote and the belief that Project Fear is in danger of becoming Project Farce because the Brexit endorsement surprised a complacent political elite as Scotland threatens a second referendum on independence.
Unless the PM can bring some order to these matters, starting at today’s EU summit, he risks undermining the Government’s policy successes of the past six years and compromising the economy still further at this critical juncture. How Britain gets access to the Single Market in the future will make or break this country.
Yet the Conservatives – and Labour for that matter – need to remember that the referendum was effectively lost in Yorkshire and the North where voters do not share London and the South East’s enthusiasm for the EU.
Unlike the capital, this region has still to reap the rewards of the tentative economic recovery underway. Unlike the capital, the forces of globalisation have had a marked impact on job prospects and public services. And, unlike the capital, voters believe that this country’s leaders regard the North as little more than an irritating inconvenience.
It is not. Its future fortunes are inextricably linked to the success – or otherwise – of Britain’s liberation from Brussels and it would be prudent of prospective leaders to head the wise words of Yorkshire MEP Amjad Bashir who says: “What matters is not when the UK leaves the EU, but how we leave.”
Furthermore he also challenges Tory leadership hopefuls to reach out to the whole country, saying there should not be “any electoral no-go areas, either socio-economic or geographic”. Words equally applicable to a Labour party which appears to be in even more disarray, and unable to provide any credible opposition, the top priority is ensuring that Britain leaves the EU on the best terms possible – and secures the best possible trade arrangements for businesses so this country can flourish once it has recovered from this hiatus.
Russian roulette: The state of education policy
IF BRITAIN is to seize the moment – and prosper in a post-Brexit world – students of all academic abilities will need world class skills and school standards across Yorkshire need to be transformed as a matter of urgency.
Yet the turmoil in the Conservative and Labour parties is detracting from this necessity – and all other issues, like regional devolution, which are effectively in abeyance because of this gridlock.
Take education. George Osborne announced plans in his Budget to convert every secondary and primary school into an academy free from LEA control. And David Cameron promised to ‘finish the job’ before Ministers back-tracked on the commitment, not least because of protests from rural campaigners in North and East Yorkshire.
What now? Mr Cameron has announced his resignation; the Chancellor’s position is untenable and the Government is now playing Russian roulette with the future prospects of children after the Prime Minister’s audacious referendum gamble backfired and plunged the UK into a simultaneous political, economic and constitutional crisis.
With the review of the school funding formula also on hold, and Barnsley Council exploring whether it is feasible to set up an academy trust of its own, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is honour-bound to show some leadership, and explain how she intends to respond to these challenges, at the earliest opportunity. After all, the new academic year is due to start in September as the contest to elect Mr Cameron’s successor ends. Teachers, parents and students have a right to expect some clarity before the summer break.